The Political Consumer and Political Ideology : A study of the language of Fairtrade International
Michele Micheletti (2003) argues political consumerism is a new form of political participation, in which individuals in their choice of consumables exert political influence based on moral value. Political consumerism is a rather new concept, and as such still embedded with many ambiguities. This study aims to focus on one of such ambiguities by exploring if the framework of political ideology can be included in the discourse of political consumerism. This is carried out by analyzing the Twitter feed of one of the most internationally well-known symbols of conscious consumption; Fairtrade International, in order to evaluate if the organization’s marketing message is framed as political consumerism, and if the framework of political ideology can be found in such a discourse. This is done employing a model of political ideology outlined by the scholars Manfred B. Steger and Paul James, in which they argue that political ideologies are created against a backdrop of social imaginaries, which is then utilized in connection to Michael K. Goodman’s theory of fair-trade imaginaries, in which a Western consumer imagines a shared social existence with a Southern producer. The purpose is to contribute to the discussion of how individuals form and live political ideologies through acts of political consumption. The study concludes that Fairtrade International frames its Twitter feed according to the language of political consumerism, and found in the feed is the discourse of two social imaginaries, in which Fairtrade products become carriers of political and moral subtexts, thus forming a political ideology created and lived in patterns of consumption by a collective of Fairtrade consumers within a normative framework of political participation, fairness and social community.
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